In case you missed Tuesday's GOP debate, here's a quick summary: Herman Cain likes talking about his '999' Plan.
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He's also been fond of touting the "Chilean Model" for privatizing Social Security -- pitching it as a series of free-market, private savings accounts. But in fact, whether he and his conservative fans realize it or not, Cain is in fact embracing the kind of policy prescription that they have been railing against on certain other subjects throughout this whole campaign.
Progressives might instinctively dislike the 'Chilean Model', due to its origins: It was enacted by decree in the early 1980's, during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to replace a Pay-As-You-Go public pension system (the sort of thing that has Rick Perry calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme."). However, this fact alone should not necessarily disqualify it -- after all, violent street crime was illegal in Pinochet's Chile, but that does not mean laws against violent street crime are bad.
But more importantly, Pincohet left office way back in 1990. And after more than 20 years of democracy -- nearly all of it under progressive administrations of one stripe or another -- the system has simply not been repealed. (However, there have in fact been significant changes, supported across the political spectrum, to increase the government's role and the coverage for lower-earners -- reflecting genuine problems that people have had with the system in practice.)
However, despite the regime that originally imposed it, the overall system has ultimately met with at least some approval from the Chilean people, though it is far from perfect and remains a work in progress. Therefore, the Chilean system does merit at least a close examination on its own merits. But as it turns out, Herman Cain and his fellow Tea Partiers might not like what they find.